(Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
As the slow-moving, now less powerful Hurricane Irene approaches New York City early Sunday, it has already caused nearly 2.8 million people to lose electricity and hundreds of thousands to evacuate along the East Coast.
The death toll from the storm has risen to ten, mostly from toppling trees or branches or other flying objects due to heavy winds, CNN reported early Sunday. Five of the deaths came in the state of North Carolina, three others in Virginia and one each in Maryland and in Florida.
As of 6:19 a.m. EDT, Irene had made landfall along the New Jersey coast at Little Egg inlet, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, according to CBS News. The hurricane, with its full power, is expected to make landfall on New York’s Long Island at around midday.
Hurricane Irene was less powerful in the early morning than when it made landfall on Cape Lookout in North Carolina as a category 1 hurricane on Saturday morning. But it was still powerful enough to create widespread havoc in New York City, which had already experienced a storm surge and water levels were expected to rise as much as eight feet.
According to power companies along the East Coast, the number of people without electricity was expected to rise as the storm pushed on toward New York City and New England.
There were no signs of flooding in low-lying areas that were under mandatory evacuation orders until daybreak. These areas included Battery Park City and other sections of lower Manhattan. But high tide at 8 a.m. was expected to be a breaking point, The Los Angeles Times said.
Before daybreak, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group announced that one of its reactors at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland went off-line automatically because of winds from Hurricane Irene. But the second reactor was declared safe and operating at 100 percent power.
Due to rising winds, New York City authorities had to close three bridges to Rockaways, the lower level of the George Washington Bridge and one of that bridge’s approaches in New Jersey. The Broad Channel, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge were also expected to close.